A Royal Baby

The BBC is reporting that the Duchess of Cambridge, the wife of Prince William, has been taken to the hospital for delivery of their first child.

There will be thousands of babies born in the world over the next 24 hours, but this is the one who will receive the attention.  The news of the impending birth makes the front page of the BBC website, knocking world crises to the back page.  In other parts of the world, it would just be Will and Kate getting ready to welcome a new member to their family, as parents have done for time immemorial.  But this birth is different, because the child will be “royal.”

It’s amazing that the British monarchy has survived into the 21st century.  You would think that the civilized world has moved past the quaint notion of kings and queens and royal prerogative, but obviously it hasn’t.  The British royal family has become a kind of national symbol, and its members have moved comfortably into the modern notion of celebrityhood that seems to dominate so much of our culture, where people are famous for being famous.  It’s why so many people in America are as interested in the birth as the people of Great Britain.

What must it be like, to be born into the British royal family?  To be heir to immense wealth and property, to be identified as in the line of succession, to be able to jet around the world at your whim — and, at the same time, know that everything you do will be covered by the tabloids, your every indiscretion will be publicized, and even a beautiful, private moment like the birth of your first child will occur in the glare of the public spotlight, with some functionary lecturing you about the proper protocols?

Good luck, kid — I think you’re going to need it.

The GOP Targets Weiner’s World

You’ll remember former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who resigned from the House of Representatives in disgrace after his curious on-line conduct and later misrepresentations about it were disclosed to the American public.  His sordid tale dominated the airwaves in June.

Tomorrow a special election will be held to replace Weiner.  His New York City district formerly was viewed as safely Democratic — it covers parts of Brooklyn and Queens, and was the political springboard for current New York Senator Chuck Schumer — but now polls indicate that the Republican candidate may actually win.  Such a result would send shock waves through the Democratic Party and might cause more Democrats to begin questioning President Obama and his leadership of the party.

The old saying is that all politics is local, and local issues have been important in this race.  The district includes a large Jewish population, and Republican Bob Turner has urged them to send a message to President Obama about his policies toward Israel.  The polling also indicates, however, that President Obama’s general unpopularity may be a drag on the Democratic candidate, David Weprin.  The President carried the district by 11 percentage points in 2008, but a recent poll indicates that he now is viewed unfavorably by 54 percent of respondents, including 38 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents.

You normally can’t make too much out of a special election to replace a politician who resigned amidst scandal, but tomorrow’s special election could be an exception to that rule.  If a safe Democratic seat flips to the Republicans, it may be a sign of greater voter unrest, and larger political waves, at work in America.